The Workplace - Business Management for Financial Advisers

Once the right workers are in right jobs, the challenge is to create a workplace where motivated place can flourish. A place where:

  • employees are satisfied and motivated
  • the culture is one of respect, trust, and caring
  • personal and business growth are aligned
  • achievement and challenge are the standard
  • performance is recognized

What Really Drives Retention?

if you’ve ever found yourself looking at your staff as an expense to be managed, rather than an asset on which you produce a return, you’re likely creating an environment in which individuals lose their motivation.

We’ve found that if an employee pay is around 10% of market norms, individuals would not leave firms. Most advisers tell us that the key to their success is the “family environment” they believe they foster in their firms. The family concept is a convenient term when the owner of the practice is able to share some of his or her wealth because of a good year or a big new client.

Naturally, people are happy when you give them money. If you’re using money to bond with the staff, you’re not building the culture you hope to achieve. Many financial advisers prefer to avoid conflict, and the pain they experience personally in having to confront a problem is almost paralyzing.

The manager’s job is to create a good working environment. Critical to such an approach is job matching and other is to create a dynamic environment. A survey conducted on an advisory firm revealed the disturbing perceptions of workplace. Quarter of the employees was looking for another job. Firms that have high retention rates among valued employees do several things well:

They have a management team that is aligned and cohesive and has a shared focus.

  • They have the right people in the right jobs.
  • They maximize leadership strengths and focus resources on strategic priorities.
  • They have an organizational structure that’s efficient, productive, and leverage able, while enhancing growth and supporting current business operations.
  • They link business goals to position responsibilities, performance metrics, and reward systems.
  • They emphasize teamwork, accountability, and commonality.
  • They attract, retain, develop, and reward talents.
  • They celebrate successes.

Managing Culture

Organizational culture is one of the primary drivers of staff satisfaction and staff turnover. The keys to managing culture are:

  • Knowing what the current culture is—getting feedback
  • Knowing what the future culture should be
  • Clearly defining and communicating both
  • Being prepared to commit to a lengthy process of change
  • Tying all factors and functions together
  • Continually monitoring
  • Ensuring that change is valued

Managing Difficult People

The downside of growing business is that you have more people to manage. One of the challenges of the advisors is the idea that everyone they employ is a friend or a member of the family. As a consequence, the practice drifts and the owner suffers in silence.

Many advisors feel that in real world, you would have created a workplace in which motivated people can manage themselves, but the reality is that most employees need some structure, focus, and reinforcement at least some of the time.

Of course, advisers often want to keep their business small to avoid bureaucracy. But many think this means they can also avoid conflict with their staff. Somewhere in your career, you’ve probably worked for someone who did not appreciate you, respect you, or pay you appropriately. It can also be useful—as you recall what it was like to work for someone else—to reflect on the conversations you had with coworkers.

The recognition of what’s troubling your staff and how you’re relating to them may help you to deal with those employees you regard as “difficult.” But before you decide this is just another out of- touch consultant who blames the parent or the boss, it’s not impossible that you may indeed have a jerk or two working for you, and there may be nothing you can do about them except to kick them out.

In our consulting with financial-services firms on organizational, staffing, and strategic issues, we must delve into the human dynamics of the business. We find some common reasons for discontent that can usually be solved by getting the strategy and the structure back into alignment and by helping the businesses to improve internal communication. In many other cases, we find that clearly defining a career path goes a long way toward getting people to focus on a goal instead of on their navel.

Taking Action

Manager’s work is to assess whether the attitude of the employee is justifiable and fixable. People who challenge you can often be intelligent, driven, and dynamic individuals whose energy and creativity you’d do well to harness to help propel your business forward.

But if advisers were to look back at their biggest management mistakes, they would probably admit that they did not deal with these types of people quickly enough. We have helped many firms to reconfigure their human-capital equation through the strategy of the five Bs: buy, build, borrow, bounce, and bind. We use a series of tools such as Profile or Kolbe benchmarking, interviewing, organizational surveying and auditing, and plan redesign to help our clients reconfigure their human capital to maximize results and profits.

There are several steps you can take now. First, if you do not have a formal evaluation process, you must implement one, as described earlier in this chapter. Formal appraisals give you a foundation for counseling the staff member. There is a practical model for resolving differences among people and helping steer behavior either to exceptional performance or out the door. We call that process the DESCO model, and it works best when the following five steps are deployed:

  1. Describe the specific observed behavior that you want to discuss.
  2. Express your feelings, reactions, and concerns about the behavior.
  3. Suggest an alternative behavior or set of behaviors.
  4. Consequences (state them).
  5. Offer support to help the person “move up or move out.”

Second, you must listen and respond to the employee, not react. But be sure you understand whether he or she is the problem or you are.But no such request was ever made again by the owner. Nonetheless, for the next two years, whenever there was conflict or this employee became overwhelmed with work, he would bring up the issue, always concluding with, “And this is why I’m not sure I can keep working here.” Situations like this become a distraction and manipulative.

Whether or not the complaint is valid, if such an affront could not be buried after two years, it’s unlikely it will ever be resolved. Yet the issue defined the relationship between employee and employer and caused the boss to look for ways to appease this person through Money, extra attention, time off, a new title, and so on. Obviously, this employee had found the right button to push, and the boss’s reactions encouraged him to continue with this strategy of torment and guilt.

Third, consider using the psychometric tests described previously, such as Profile or Kolbe, to determine whether the individual is truly suitable for the job. We always encourage such assessments be applied in the hiring process because they provide tremendous insight into whether individuals have the motivation, personality, interests, and ability to perform certain work.

As with parenting, there isn’t much practical training available for bosses until they’re on the job and in the line of fire. But good advisers tend to be intuitive people, so applying these techniques to the staff may help you get to the root cause of the issue.


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